In January, Joyful Heart filed an amicus brief in The State v. Jones, a case involving a 1993 kidnapping and rape that was being heard before the Ohio Supreme Court. Under consideration was a lower court's decision to use, in part, the state's delay in testing rape kits to dismiss these charges against an alleged serial rapist.
Today, in a victory for survivors whose cases have languished for years—sometimes decades—as part of the rape kit backlog, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously reversed that decision.
The rape kit in the case had gone untested for nearly 20 years. The case was only reopened in 2012, after the kit was submitted for testing as part of Ohio's Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiative, formed by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, to eliminate Ohio's backlog of untested rape kits—nearly 13,500 kits across the state. Upon being analyzed, the kit revealed DNA evidence from Demetrius Jones, who had a long criminal history that included violent offenses, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Even so, the resulting case has been dismissed by the trial court based on a claim of "pre-indictment delay prejudice" raised by the defendant. The Ohio Court of Appeals then upheld that dismissal.
Today's ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court has the potential to affect many of the cases that are now developing as a result of testing previously unanalyzed rape kits. Ohio has been working for years to clear its backlog, dedicating significant resources to testing kits and prosecuting cases. These efforts have been highly successful and today's decision ensures that Ohio—and other communities engaged in rape kit reform—can keep a path to justice and healing open for survivors.
Partners AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women, Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN), Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence (OAESV), and National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) had joined Joyful Heart in filing the amicus.
You can read today's opinion here.
- By Ilse Knecht, July 27, 2016
END THE BACKLOG is an initiative of the Joyful Heart Foundation to shine a light on the backlog of untested rape kits throughout the United States. Our goal is to end this injustice by conducting groundbreaking research identifying the extent of the nation’s backlog and best practices for eliminating it, expanding the national dialogue on rape kit testing through increased public awareness, engaging communities and government agencies and officials and advocating for comprehensive rape kit reform legislation and policies at the local, state and federal levels. We urge you to learn more about the backlog, where it exists and why it matters. We invite you to take action and support efforts to test rape kits. Help us send the message that we must take rape seriously.